February 7th, 2022. It was a rather normal winter day, filled by my freshman year class schedule. I arrived early to my class, and filled the time by clicking aimlessly on my phone. That was until 11:19, when I received the best news one could in a Finite Mathematics class. “University of Michigan: Application Status Update.” My hands trembled with nerves typing my login information and my heart pounded opening the decision. However, my fear turned to joy when I saw maize and blue confetti fill my screen. I was admitted to my dream school and invited to join the Leaders and Best.

I spent the days following my acceptance researching the University of Michigan. I watched countless YouTube videos, read dozens of articles, and spent a bit too much money at the MDen. I wanted to expand my work beyond the classroom, as a holistic educational experience requires a range of academic and social opportunities.

During my search, I discovered the Barger Leadership Institute. Instantly I knew I wanted to be involved and applied right away. Leadership has been a core principle throughout my life, and I had never heard of a program with this caliber. I was amazed by the Barger Leadership Institute’s countless opportunities, and looked to get involved in any way I could. When I finally arrived in Ann Arbor, I went to Weiser Hall to see the BLI in action. During my visit, I found out that the Advanced Leadership Fellow (ALFs) team was hiring. I immediately applied, and was luckily accepted.

My year as an Advanced Leadership Fellow has been remarkable. During this time, I had the privilege to take part in ‘learn’ and ‘leap’ activities which aided my acclimation to the University of Michigan. I spent my fall semester as a 'Leadership Lab' student. In the lab, I received keen mentorship and advice from Leadership Teaching Fellows. As a transfer student, I added a diverse perspective to class discussions. In fact, my transfer experience inspired my eight-week passion project, where I worked with the Center for Campus Involvement to improve student organization outreach programs such as Maize Pages.

Throughout my year as an Advanced Leadership Fellow, I specialized within the events team. I, alongside my co-lead Drue, revitalized events programming. We did so by bringing a fresh perspective to the BLI’s leadership principles. Drue and I hosted biweekly Community Meetings, where students participate in hands-on activities, enjoy a meal, and, most importantly, build community. Our Community Meetings draw a diverse group of students from all parts of Michigan’s campus. As a result, the BLI has grown in its membership, and more students report a greater sense of belonging.

In addition to our specialized teams, the Advanced Leadership Fellows accomplished amazing team-wide goals. For example, we all aided in facilitating an Alumni Panel, where alums shared how their BLI experience aided them in the work force. This panel was planned by our Lead ALFs, Aaron and Meg, whose leadership shined throughout the semester. Three student staff members spearheaded our annual Detroit Retreat. The three-day-long retreat was an immersive experience, giving participants firsthand lessons about sustainability and the environment. These opportunities, among many others, allow ALFs to get experiential leadership experiences in a variety of ways.

I am immensely proud of the achievements the Barger Leadership Institute has attained over the past year. From transformation fellowships to student-led international retreats, it is easy to say that the BLI has done it all. However, I am most proud of the wonderful community we create every day at the Barger Leadership Institute. I am thankful that I enjoy going to work each day, and am prideful that our work is making a difference on our campus. My coworkers have become my best friends, my managers have become mentors, and Weiser Hall has become my home away from home. At the Barger Leadership Institute, I truly feel that I am making a campus-wide difference, which is an indescribable feeling.

I’ll always fondly remember receiving an acceptance letter to the University of Michigan. My admission allowed me to step foot on campus, but joining the Barger Leadership Institute is truly what got my foot through the door. I can confidently say joining the Barger Leadership was the best decision I made during my first year at Michigan, and I am incredibly excited about the years to come.

— Meaghan Ennis transferred this fall to the University of Michigan from Fordham University. She is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts interested in studying economics and plans to go to law school. Meaghan is part of the BLI Events team, and she is looking forward to creating her own leadership journey as she finds her place at the Michigan and hopes to fulfill Michigan's motto of 'Leaders and Best.'